Household Hazardous Waste

What is it? 

A product is hazardous if it has one or more of these properties:

Toxic — substances that may be poisonous even in small quantities and cause injury or death when swallowed, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled into the lungs

poison symbol

Flammable — substances, usually liquids, which can readily ignite (burn in the air) in a wide range of temperature conditions. 

flammable symbol

Corrosive — substances or vapors that can destroy or eat away the surface of another material.

corrosive symbol

Reactive/Explosive — substances that can react with air, water or another substance to produce toxic vapors or explode.

explosive symbol


 

What is the issue? 

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) are chemical products in your home such as cleaners, paint thinners, sprays, and pesticides, which can be potentially dangerous to humans and the environment. Most of us have a variety of these products stored in our cupboards, closets, or garages. If these types of products that are emptied down the drain, or into storm sewers they can contaminate water ways. Hazardous products inadvertently put in the garbage typically make up less than one percent of the waste stream but their presence in landfills has the potential to do more harm than the other 99+ percent.

Where can it go? 

In 2020, provincial legislation was passed that made Product Care Recycling the stewardship organizations responsible for the safe disposal of these materials. The program is funded by an Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) that is charged when the product is purchased. They are working on building a collection network to service the whole province. Currently, some communities set up Household Hazardous Waste Days (HHW days), often once a year, which allow their residents to get rid of hazardous materials in a safe and environmentally responsible way. Certain landfills and independent businesses also accept some hazardous products. Please check out our Waste Reduction Hub for locations and HHW days near you.  

What happens after? 

HHW products are dealt with in various ways. Each class of product requires a specific treatment that will destroy it, render it non-hazardous, recycle it, or otherwise keep it out of the environment. Some, like batteries, propane cylinders, solvents, fuels, and some mercury-containing products (e.g. fluorescent light bulbs, thermometers, etc.), can be recycled. Poisons, pharmaceuticals, and PCBs are incinerated in specialized facilities. Corrosives are neutralized. Adhesives, cleaners, and some oxidizers are subject to physical or chemical treatment.  

How can I reduce? 

  • Chose non-toxic alternatives to hazardous products.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
  • LED bulbs are a mercury-free alternative to fluorescents, whilst extremely long-lasting & energy efficient.
  • When buying things like light bulbs, batteries, thermometers, etc., select a mercury-free option.
  • Buy the smallest container that you need and give away the extras to friends.